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PhD Studentship: PhD Marine Sciences - “Predicting Vulnerability of Coastal Biodiversity to Heat Waves at Management-relevant Scales - A Conservation Physiology Approach”

University of Plymouth

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Devon, Plymouth
Funding for: UK Students, International Students
Funding amount: The studentship is supported for 3.5 years and includes a stipend from £18,622 per annum (2023-24 rate)
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 27th October 2023
Closes: 10th January 2024

Predicting vulnerability of coastal biodiversity to heat waves at management-relevant scales- a conservation physiology approach

DoS: Dr Manuela Truebano (manuela.truebanogarcia@plymouth.ac.uk)

2nd Supervisor: Dr Oliver Tills (oliver.tills@plymouth.ac.uk)

3rd Supervisor: Dr Hannah Wood, Natural England

4th Supervisor: Dr Enrico Rezende, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile

5th Supervisor: Dr Fernando Lima, CIBIO-InBIO, Universidade do Porto (CIBIO) (fplima@gmail.com) 

Applications are invited for a 3.5 years PhD studentship. The studentship will start on 01 October 2024

Project Description

Scientific background:

Heat waves are increasing in frequency and intensity, causing devastating effects on marine biodiversity. To protect the environment for future generations, we must be able to predict which areas are at most risk from this increasingly pressing environmental challenge. Using broad-scale surface temperature data, recent modelling approaches have identified broad regions across global oceans that are at greatest risk, but these approaches do not capture the small spatial scales over which climatic events impact marine animals through their physiology. Moreover, they do not work at the local and regional scales at which management decisions are made, limiting our ability to conserve coastal ecosystems.

This timely project integrates high-resolution in situ temperature data, a state-of-the-art physiological model that assesses individual-level sensitivity, and technology-led measurements of sensitivity in the field, to develop a novel approach to assessing site-specific sensitivity to heat waves in intertidal environments with unprecedented spatial resolution. In partnership with Natural England, it will also explore how outputs can be integrated into marine conservation advice.

Research methodology:

You will perform laboratory measurements of physiological tolerance in intertidal animals. A network of temperature loggers in the Southwest of the UK will provide high-resolution temperature data to simulate future heat waves at local scales. You will combine physiological and temperature data with a novel physiological model to predict mortality of intertidal animals during heat waves at different locations, and use this to assess site-specific vulnerability. Finally, you will explore how vulnerability assessment can inform conservation management plans.

Training:

You will join an established, multi-disciplinary team and receive training to develop expertise in:

  • Marine ecophysiology, animal husbandry.
  • Analysis of high-resolution temperature data and forecasting.
  • Automated technologies, autonomous data loggers, and AI.
  • Physiological modelling.
  • Policy. You will carry out a 3-month internship at NE to learn what is needed to convert your research outputs into policy.
  • Data analysis, critical thinking, scientific writing.

Person specification:

BSc degree in biology or related field. An interest in animal physiology and climate change, and strong quantitative analysis skills are essential.

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Dr Manuela Truebano, manuela.truebanogarcia@plymouth.ac.uk.

Eligibility and Funding

For further information on Eligibility and Funding, please click on the links below: 

To apply for this position please visit here.

Please clearly state the name of the studentship that you are applying for on the top of your personal statement.

Please see here for a list of supporting documents to upload with your application.

For more information on the admissions process generally, please visit our How to Apply for a Research Degree webpage or contact the Doctoral College.

The closing date for applications on 10th January 2024. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview after the deadline.

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